Saturday, September 12, 2015

Last Chance BQ.2 - Chicagoland Marathon

It was nice to have a very uneventful trip to the race with the flight, rental pick-up and commute over to the hotel going off without a hitch. We were checked in, grabbed dinner and in bed by 9.

We slept in a bit on Friday before having breakfast and heading over to the packet pick-up. Geneva is a quaint little town that looks like the definition of small-town Midwest America.

The packet was pretty sparse with only a bib, shirt, lip balm and a couple gel packs but I'm not into all the extra junk anyway so I really didn't care. After that we went back to the hotel and futzed around until it was time to head out to run.

The race organizers had a couple course previews scheduled to familiarize us with the course, especially the construction we would be encountering along the route, as well as introduce us to the pacers that would be helping us to reach our goal.

There was about 30 runners that showed up and it was a good chance to meet some of the people who shared the same dream. I also had a chance to meet Clare who I know from conversing on Twitter. It's always nice to meet social media friends in real life.

Joe, the pace group leader, was a boisterous dude that led us along the path. You could tell we were all antsy to get it on  as the pace was  creeping up and Joe had to slow us down. Still it was nice to run after a few days off and a good 30 minute effort. It was also nice to know what the course was like beforehand and the biggest observation was that it wasn't quite as "pancake flat" as it was promoted to be but that was alright; it would be good for the muscles. Christine even got in some miles so she was quite happy too. When we were done, it was back to the hotel to get changed and head out for an early dinner. With the plan being to be up at 3, I wanted to be in bed by 9, so after mixing up my UCAN pouches, getting my gear laid out and having a couple of glasses of wine to calm my nerves, it was off to sleep.

3 am came soon enough and this was it; the moment I have trained for for the last 6+ months. After a breakfast of eggs and hash browns and a stop off for a Dunkin Donuts it was time to get dressed and taped up. Although the PF has been feeling about 90% I still wanted to give it some added support. I also taped up a blister that had healed but hadn't completely peeled.

Getting to the race and parking was a breeze so I had plenty of time to stretch and find a secluded tree. Why wait in line when you don't have to? It was a near perfect morning with temperatures in the high 40s as the sun was coming up. The only thing that would have been better was less wind but I wasn't going to complain.

It was now a few minutes until the gun so I got to the start and settled in with the 3:25 pace group which turned out to be about 20 or so runners.

This was the moment all 300 of us had all trained for and when the gun sounded, we were off.

There was some slight congestion for the first half mile or so given that we were on a walking path. Still, since we were lined up in true pace groups, it thinned out pretty quickly. As we got going, the group was a little too tight and spread across which caused some jostling when we came upon people who were also out taking advantage of the cool, late summer morning. I decided I would be better served by just hanging out in the rear of the pack. This would also allow me to use them as a wind block when we made the turn north and into the headwind.

Christine and Lisa
The first of the eight 3.2 mile loops were right about on the 7:42 pace at 24:26 and as I tossed my gloves to her, Christine handed me a pack of 20 ENERGYbits. I quickly swallowed them and washed them down with my bottle I had grabbed off my designated table.

Our group had gotten into a good rhythm for loop 2 with a few of us dropping back on the inclines and then taking advantage of the down slopes to fall back into the pack.

At the mid-loop water station this time around, things got a little fouled up when there weren't enough people handing water and although I wasn't taking any it still caused somewhat of a bottleneck which slowed the group. Despite this slight delay we were cruising right along and completed this loop in 25:12. As I passed her, Christine handed me a UCAN pouch and I quickly consumed it's contents.

When it came time to grab my bottle at the table, I whiffed and knocked it to the ground. Not wanting to stop, I just kept running only to have one of the volunteers chase me down, bottle in hand. This slowed me a bit but I caught back up with the group in short order.

Again when we got to the mid-loop station there wasn't enough hands causing the runner ahead of me to come to a dead  stop and I ran into him as I reached for a cup. Neither one of us were happy about this but he started screaming at  the volunteers. As we ran on he must have told me half a dozen times he was yelling at them, not me. I wasn't going to let it get me worked up either way.

As we concluded the third loop in 25:09, things were looking pretty good and we were on pace for a BQ. Since my hands had started to get cold, I yelled to Christine as she handed me another pack of bits to give me my gloves on the next time around. She was also now joined by another Twitter friend and runner Lisa who lives in the area and came to root me on.

This time past the water table, I made a clean grab and go. Things were still ok but I could feel my legs letting me know they were there. Not really anything to worry about, so I thought since I was keeping up with the group and wasn't having any problems.

Congrat on the BQ Clare
Then, about the 10 mile mark, the first sign of trouble arose; I started to feel a slight bit of nausea on one of the small hills on the course. The feeling passed quickly enough and I was still at a good pace to not give it much of a second thought. Just a minor adversity that I had overcome. Unfortunately this was the beginning of the end as I could feel my legs beginning to go and I was also to lose touch with the group. There was another bit of nausea as well. Even so, I had concluded this loop in 26:03 and was still on pace to BQ at the halfway point. I figured if I could just take a little breather until I got my legs back under me I would be fine. I just needed to keep the group in sight.

On the fourth pass by Christine I grabbed my gloves but decided to forgo the UCAN for the time being. My stomach was still feeling unsettled and I didn't want to exacerbate the problem any further. Over the next couple miles I could feel it all slipping away as my pace kept dropping and by the time I was done with loop 5 in 28:55 I knew that a BQ had eluded me on this day. Now it was just a matter of finishing.

Crossing the finish line at 4:04:58
It didn't take long before my legs told me they needed a break so at the 17 mile mark I stepped off the course to collect myself. No sooner than I had stopped that a couple of Race Guards came up from behind to see if I was ok. They asked me some questions to feel out how I was doing and I told them I was ok, I just needed a breather. After a minute or so they were satisfied that I could continue and they went on their way as I walked for a little while.

When I felt a little better I got back to running and tried to keep a good pace to try to salvage a finish somewhere in the 3:40s but my body decided against that and pushed back.We continued this argument for a while but it was no use as I did all I could do to maintain a 10 minute mile pace. I closed loop 6 out in 36:43 and as I got my UCAN from Christine, I let her and Lisa know that I was cooked but I could see in her eyes that she knew I was done but as I left I could hear her yelling for me to press on. As much as I wanted to quit, I didn't wasn't going to let that happen now.

At this point I was not only dealing with intermittent nausea but my PF was beginning to flare especially when I was walking. My TFL wasn't feeling all that great either but it was minor. I just had to do what I had to to finish the race whether it was walking or shuffling. 

Pretty much at this point I was being lapped by most pace groups and the most discouraging part of it all was that I was coming toward the line for the final loop, I was being passed by some of the runners in my original group. I was happy for them but disappointed as I saw them getting their finisher's medal with the crowd cheering while I still had a lap to go.

The last lap was the worst. I pretty much had nothing but still had an outside chance at a sub-4 hour race. This wasn't an ideal outcome but provided for some motivation and I was able to pick up my pace somewhat while walking less. I would also cheer on runners as they passed and was happy to see Clare was on a BQ pace as she went by me around mile 23 (she not only got the BQ but 1st in her AG as well).

As the finish approached, I saw that the thoughts of a sub-4 were out the window but baring a complete catastrophe, I was going to at least PR. Some times you have to appreciate the small victories and come back to fight another day. For now I had to be content with a finishing time of 4:04:58 which was a 16+ minute PR.

In all it was a great experience and my thanks goes out to the race organizers, volunteers and pacers for putting on an event that would give us the best chance of acheiving our goal of a BQ.  A big thank you also goes out to Christine and Lisa for cheering me on, it meant a lot. Finally congratulations to all the runners that got their BQ and for those that didn't, there is always the next race.

So there you have it friends. I didn't get the job done today so that just means another attempt some time in the late winter after a period of rest and assessment over where I went wrong of which the most glaring deficiency is the lack of long runs in the last 3 months. This also means that you're in for more of my whiny, poorly written posts as I try for a BQ for 2017.


  1. I have never even attempted a marathon let alone BQ so take my words w a grain of salt. But I am in awe of the goal you set for yourself and the way that you planned and executed your training! Especially after having completed only 1 marathon prior to this! And your 16 min PR is a phenomenal sign that you've been doing the right things!! Just stay true to your goal, keep on your course, ask yourself the questions about what to tweak for next time, and I'm sure you will achieve your BQ goal!! It will become a matter of when, not if!!

    Great job Chris! Bravo on your accomplishments! Excellent post!

    1. Thank you Lisa. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to come out on a Saturday morning to cheer me on, that meant a lot.

      It was indeed a lofty goal but I'm not one for going after low hanging fruit and besides the journey is the fun part. I'm so appreciative of all the support I have received and it just proves how great the running community is.

      While I'm dissapointed by the outcome, it is by no means a failure. I've learned some things and will certainly take steps toward achieving this goal in the future. For now, though, it's time for some much needed rest, both physically and mentally.

      Again, I thank you and everyone else for the support you have given me. I hope you acheive your running goals and with any luck, Christine and I will be there to cheer you on!

  2. You gave it a solid fight but you didn't reach your "A" goal. You did get a big PR and I'm willing to bet that you learned a ton in those four hours. Once you get past the frustration you will see this as a victory. I appreciate all of the details that you posted here as I will be taking my first stab at a BQ run in just a couple of months. Rest up and find your next race! You'll get back to Boston soon enough and hopefully I'll see you there.

    1. Thank Bill and so very true. One thing I learned a long time ago is that you never really lose if you learn something from a setback. I'll be taking some time off but am also planning for my next attempt sometime in February.

      Good luck on you quest for a BQ and hopefully we will meet up there in 2017.